Palestra film to debut on ESPN next month

Posted: June 29, 2007

Being from San Diego, Mikaelyn Austin didn't know a little bit about Philadelphia basketball.

And she knew even less about the storied Palestra.

That all changed one stormy winter weekend in 1999. And now Austin is telling the story of the famed building in a documentary film titled: "The Palestra: Cathedral of Basketball." It will make its network debut on July 5 at 10 p.m. on ESPN Classic and also will air on Saturday, Aug. 4 at 8 a.m. It will be rebroadcast on ESPN Classic on Wednesday, July 11 at 10 p.m.; Monday, July 16 at 9 p.m.; and Friday, July 27 at 9 a.m.

Austin played for the Quakers from 2000 to '04, and discovered her appreciation for the Palestra as abruptly as the chilling East Coast weather hit her that weekend.

"Penn brought me in for a visit on a blizzardy weekend, and one of the assistants kept telling me, 'You have to see the Palestra,' " said Austin, 25. "Through all the snow I saw this big building that looked like an industrial-looking warehouse. When I got inside and walked through a corridor it was like 'Wow.' It was then that I got it. I said to myself that I had to play there."

She did, and it was during her final season that Austin knew she wanted to tell the story of the Palestra.

"I was a film major, and in my senior year decided I wanted to do something about the Palestra," she said. "I love historical documentaries.

"We were having an alumni game and one of the women who played in the late '70s was telling us how women used to not be able to play in the Palestra, they played in Weightman Hall. So I started looking into the history and came up with great stories about the Palestra. I was fortunate to get some investors, Penn grads, and here we are."

Included in the documentary are comments from Harry Kalas, Phil Martelli, Dr. Jack Ramsay and longtime broadcaster Les Keiter, among others.

The documentary will be available on DVD on July 5.

For information, go to palestradocumentary.com. *

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